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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Not Less Painful as the Day Goes On



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The last Morning Jolt until November 19:

And Now, the Most Depressing Morning Jolt Ever

Devastating.

I wish I could point to silver linings, reasons for optimism, areas to build in the future, and so on. But I’m not going to sugarcoat it: This is a much, much, much tougher loss than 2008.

Looking back, we could justify 2008 to ourselves: the economic meltdown, fatigue of eight years of George W. Bush. The McCain campaign had a slew of problems, and the opposition promised America a chance to make history with the first African-American president. They had hope and change; we had an elderly vet who was never an economics-focused guy at a time when the economy was collapsing.

In 2010, we saw epic Republican gains in that smaller turnout traditional to a midterm election, and we persuaded ourselves — I certainly persuaded myself — that 2008 was a historical anomaly, a confluence of factors that created a perfect storm for Obama and the Democrats. Things would be set right.

In 2008, Obama had been elected on the promise of things to come. In 2012, he would be judged on his record.

The American people looked at that record and said, “Eh, looks pretty good, four more years of that.”

After Fast and Furious. And Benghazi. And the stimulus. And Solyndra. And Obamacare.

There will be a lot of finger-pointing at Mitt Romney, but I’m not so sure that he ran that bad a campaign. Certainly, not many folks were making that argument after the first debate. I suspect we’ll hear a lot of “Romney was a terrible candidate” talk in the coming days and weeks, but if you’re saying that, get specific. He focused on the preeminent issue on voters’ minds, and was winning on that issue. He won independents, according to the exit polls (more on this below).

Are we really going to look at the Ohio numbers and conclude that the failure to support the auto bailout was what crushed him? The auto bailout?

Ross Douthat offered this grim assessment: “Lesson of this election is always bail out, never touch entitlements.”

Phil Klein noted that the exit polls indicated Romney won voters 65 and older by 11 percentage points. So one could argue that the Ryan reform proposals weren’t quite as politically difficult to sell as some warned, but . . . the Romney-Ryan campaign offered serious reform of runaway entitlement programs. And the American people — or at least enough people in enough states adding up to more than 270 electoral votes — rejected it.

I feel a bit like when Jerry Brown beat Meg Whitman out in California: If you really think that the guy with the tired promises of spending more and taxing more is really going to save you, I can’t help you.

The American people voted Tuesday; reality votes in the weeks and months to come. The markets will take into account the fact that we’re likely to see similar gridlock in Congress for at least the next two years. The fiscal cliff and sequestration will have to be dealt with in one way or the other. Those who set the national credit rating will have to contemplate whether the outlook warrants another downgrade. The ticking time bomb of our entitlement programs will show less and less time before detonation. Taxes are probably going to go up.

Oh, and the world, full of those seeking a weaker America, may become a more dangerous place. You may see those hostile to our values testing their luck.

Those Pollsters Were Right; We’re a Much More Democratic County, at Least in Presidential Years

The exit polls indicate a 39 percent Democrat to 33 percent Republican split, only a percentage point behind 2008. I was incorrect in my skepticism that the electorate would be closer to D+3 or D+4. Nate Silver, take a bow. Public Policy Polling, your samples weren’t as wacky as I believed they were.

The Obama campaign has put together a fantastic get-out-the-vote machine. We saw in Virginia and New Jersey in 2009 and Massachusetts in early 2010 and all over the country in the midterms that Obama’s personal charm did not transfer to other candidates like Jon Corzine and Creigh Deeds and Martha Coakley.

Republicans need to confront the fact that because of demographics and a party infrastructure that has gotten very, very good at bringing out the vote in presidential years, Democrats are going to be very, very tough every four years. One of the strange aspects of this year is that I would have argued that Obama wasn’t all that charming. His favorable numbers dipped. He was dismissive in that first debate, snarky and combative in the second, constantly saying things that his campaign had to explain — “you didn’t build that,” “the private sector is doing fine,” “Romnesia,” “voting is the best revenge” . . . and he still won.

Ari Fleischer points out the silver lining is that so far, Romney is winning independents. That’s not a silver lining, that’s worse news: Democrats don’t really need independents anymore.

Jedidiah Bila: “I always hear “We are a center-right country.” No. A center-right country does not elect Barack Obama twice. Time to re-evaluate.”

We’ve seen two billion-dollar campaigns, and the result is the flipping of Indiana and North Carolina. Lah-de-dah.

What is rather astounding is that the right-track/wrong-track numbers are so lousy, and yet we kept a Republican House, a Democrat Senate, and President Obama.

Down-Ticket

We can point to particular candidates in particular races who may have been mistakes. We will wonder if the best way to follow upon the insurgent, anti-Washington mood of the 2010 midterms was to nominate retreads like George Allen and Tommy Thompson in the key Senate races of Virginia and Wisconsin.

Hey, Todd Akin, are you still so sure staying in that race was God’s will? Because I kind of figured He would have spoken through the polls that came out before the withdrawal deadline.

Richard Mourdock is a good man who made a terrible statement, in an environment he should have recognized was fraught with danger. Once it became clear that the Democrats thought they had a winning issue on abortion in cases of rape, he had to be prepared for that question. Banning abortion in cases of rape or incest is a challenging position to defend even without the media ready to pounce.

Jon Henke pointed out that conservative groups and Republicans sunk hundreds of millions of dollars on television ads, and asked what impact they really had. The immediate, harsh, possibly inaccurate answer: none. Remember when the Citizen’s United decision was going to transform American politics forever?

Silver Linings

Okay. The Obama coalition that didn’t show up in the elections of 2009 or 2010, despite his efforts to bring out those voters for other Democrats, reappeared in 2012. It may be personal to him, and it may not reappear in 2013 or 2014. Republicans can attempt to come back and win the Senate in 2014.

Buyer’s remorse is going to be a pain for Obama. Bush ran into trouble in 2005. Second terms tend to be rough on presidents.

Considering how badly the GOP did in the presidential and Senate races, it’s rather striking that they didn’t see worse results in House races. I can’t believe Mia Love couldn’t beat Jim Matheson in Utah.

As of Wednesday morning, the popular vote was close.

ADDENDUM: And just think, Obama thought he inherited a lot of problems back in 2009.

But wait, just in case this wasn’t bad enough, here’s a look at Obama’s vote margin in some key states as of this afternoon (these figures will change a bit as those straggling precincts report in):

Virginia: 107,339

Ohio: 100,763

Florida: 47,493

Colorado: 111,094

Nevada: 66,379

Total: 433,068

So for less than 500,000 votes where it counted, Mitt Romney could have had 281 votes in the Electoral College this morning. There have been about 118 million votes tallied nationwide so far.


Tags: Elections


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